Friday, August 19, 2016

The Return of the King

Severe Spoilers Ahead


The Return of the King is the third and final installment of J.R.R. Tolkien’s masterwork The Lord of the Rings published in 1955. This post will have extreme spoilers, so you’ve been warned.

The story begins with Rohan and Gondor gearing up for war with Mordor. This part is very exciting as all of the characters unite to fight the dark forces.  I feel especially for Pippin and Merry who are "on the edge of [a war] they can't escape".  For the first few chapters they are bracing themselves for the storm that is the assault of Mordor.

Their journey brings them on very different paths with Pippin heading to Gondor and becoming a Guard of the Citadel and Merry travelling with Theoden and the hosts of Rohan.  Both of these characters go through significant changes as they become bolder and less naive.  I suppose this feeling might be similar to what Tolkien felt as he went off to war for the first time during the First World War.  I find this beginning part very suspenseful as the characters wait for Sauron's move.

The Battle of the Pelennor Fields is the most intense battle in all of The Lord of the Rings.  Eowyn confronts the Witch King and defends her dying Uncle Theoden as Merry makes his way across his first battle field.  Meanwhile, Aragorn, Gimli and Legolas make the dangerous journey through the Paths of the Dead.  This part is particularly bone chilling and is one of the scariest passages in all of The Lord of the Rings.

Denethor, the Steward of Gondor, despairs of his chances of ever defeating Sauron and tries to kill both himself and his son Faramir.  Luckily Faramir is spared but Denethor passes away leaving Gondor without a ruler--for the time being.  The struggle of Denethor with despair is very well presented--the things Denethor says he sees in the Palantir almost make me despair even though I know the ending!

They show up at the battle triumphant.  The forces of Mordor are initially defeated, but it is still uncertain whether or not Frodo will make it to Mt. Doom.  In one of my favorite scenes, Gandalf, Aragorn, and the other leaders get together and decide to sacrifice themselves so that Frodo and Sam can sneak across the plains of Mordor safely.  

When we last left Frodo he had been taken by Orcs after his encounter with Shelob.  The Return of the King Book VI opens up with Samwise's victorious storming of the tower and his rescue of Frodo.  Frodo and Sam have the most difficult part of their journey ahead of them, however, because the temptation of the Ring is growing stronger as the pair get closer to the mountain and Sauron's servants abound in the Dark Land.

The relationship between Sam and Frodo is superb.  Sam really carries Frodo throughout these final, most difficult moments.  There are some truly touching passages in which Sam gives his all so that Frodo can get rid of what is hurting him, namely, the Ring.  Finally Gollum shows up in the end and attacks Frodo.  Frodo had given up and could not give up the Ring, but Gollum slips and he and the Ring tumble into the inferno that is the Mountain of Doom.

My favorite chapter in The Return of the King and in fact of all of The Lord of the Rings is the Steward and the King in which Aragorn and Faramir sort things out for Gondor's future.  It starts with Eowyn who has been feeling bottled up in the Houses of Healing following her injury on the battle field she snuck onto.  She meets Faramir and they begin to talk.  Eventually Eowyn realizes that she is not meant for reckless bloodshed and that her final destiny is not just death in glory and she and Faramir get engaged.  The writing of this part is some of the sweetest in the entire tale and I really love Eowyn's character development.  Her brave and tom-boyish personality matches perfectly with Faramir's sensitive and studious one and they make one of the best pairings in the tale.

Aragorn, Gandalf, and the four Hobbits come to Minas Tirith completely victorious and Aragorn is finally crowned the King of Gondor, pulling his tale almost full circle.  But he is not complete until Arwen arrives with Elrond and her hand is given to the new king.  There is a really special passage in which Aragorn sets guards on the walls of the city to watch for Arwen because he is so anxious for her arrival.

The Hobbits return to the Shire and duke it out with Saruman the wizard who has taken over their bit of home.  This part of the book reminds us that war really can hit home.  Thankfully our Hobbits are now more learned than ever so they are able to rid their homeland of the filth of Saruman.  

Frodo, weary from his journey, decides to take the special offer given to him by Arwen and pass in to the West where he can be healed of his hurts.  Sam is heartbroken to see him go, but he has started his own family and continues to live his simple and peaceful life in the Shire.

This book may be my favorite in The Lord of the Rings.  It has some beautiful writing and it wraps up the epic tale perfectly.  Here are some of my favorite quotes:

“I will not say: do not weep; for not all tears are an evil.”

“I am glad you are here with me. Here at the end of all things, Sam.”

“For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”

“But I have been too deeply hurt, Sam. I tried to save the Shire, and it has been saved, but not for me. It must often be so, Sam, when things are in danger: some one has to give them up, lose them, so that others may keep them.”

“In this hour, I do not believe that any darkness will endure.”

“Oft hope is born when all is forlorn.”

“The world is full enough of hurts and mischances without wars to multiply them.”

“It is not our part to master all the tides of the world, but to do what is in us for the succour of those years wherein we are set, uprooting the evil in the fields that we know, so that those who live after may have clean earth to till. What weather they shall have is not ours to rule.”

“And then her heart changed, or at least she understood it; and the winter passed, and the sun shone upon her.”

“Out of doubt, out of dark to the day's rising
I came singing into the sun, sword unsheathing.
To hope's end I rode and to heart's breaking:
Now for wrath, now for ruin and a red nightfall! ”

“But no living man am I! You look upon a woman. Éowyn I am, Éomund's daughter. You stand between me and my lord and kin. Begone, if you be not deathless! For living or dark undead, I will smite you, if you touch him.”

Have you read The Return of the King?  What was your favorite chapter?

Have you yet to read The Return of the King?  What are your predictions for the final outcome?  Will Frodo survive?

Comment below :)

2 comments:

  1. I agree with many of your quotes. I can hardly read LOTR without crying over many of the quotes. Here's another of my favorites:

    "But Sam turned to Bywater, and so came back up the Hill, as day was ending once more. And he went on, and there was yellow light, and fire within; and the evening meal was ready, and he was expected. And Rose drew him in, and set him in his chair, and put little Elanor upon his lap.
    He drew a deep breath. 'Well, I'm back,' he said."

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